The St. Albert Food Bank has completed a two-year research study on homelessness, and it has already resulted in changes to help people in need of permanent housing.
The Alberta Rural Development Network-funded project identified those at risk of homelessness and determined where gaps in services and supports existed for those who were homeless in St. Albert and the Sturgeon County areas.
“Without the federal funding provided through the Alberta Rural Development Network, and research assistance from the University of Alberta, this critical project could not have happened,” said Suzan Krecsy, the executive director at the food bank.
“We know the number of people facing episodes of homelessness is rising, and a comprehensive strategy to address this issue is needed.”
The study found that as many as 100 people in this area have been homeless, or have been at imminent risk of becoming homeless. These numbers have tripled since the St. Albert Food Bank and Community Village began keeping track of the situation in 2010.
Most homeless people in St. Albert grew up or have previously lived in the city in stable housing situations. In colder months, they might leave St. Albert to seek better shelter options in Edmonton, but they mostly still consider St. Albert their home and would prefer to remain here.
The study found that family conflicts have a significant impact on youth homelessness. Youths often couch-surf in the homes of friends or extended family members, live outside in the bush, or in other hideouts where they cannot be seen. Because of the difficulties in their lives and in their living circumstances, they often drop out of school as well.
Krecsy pointed out that the City of St. Albert’s Social Master Plan clearly states that the city is a community where all residents have a place to live.
A new community committee has already been formed in the wake of the study. The St. Albert Coalition to Prevent Homelessness will get its formal launch during a special event from 3 to 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 20 at the St. Albert Food Bank and Community Village. Everyone including interested individuals, community groups, and stakeholders are all invited to attend. Participation in the new coalition is open to all interested stakeholders.
The launch will include presentations by project consultant Kathy Barnhart who will offer a summary of the homeless prevention strategy and the future direction of the coalition, and Kris Knutson of the Mustard Seed Church who will speak about community strategies to support residents at risk.